Media monitoring and analytics firm Isentia has accused competitor Meltwater of taking content accessed through an Isentia account and sending it on to its own clients, inducing Isentia clients to share their account details in breach of their conditions. Isentia has also accused Meltwater of lying to current, former and potential Isentia clients about the business.
The claims are being tested in the Federal Court, which has ordered Meltwater, its director and his wife to refrain from any of the alleged actions (without admission) at least until the matter is back in court tomorrow.
Isentia announced the court action in a media release last week, saying in a statement that Meltwater was “free-riding” on its licences and rights to distribute press clippings and other media items. It said that as well as breaching its contract with Isentia, it had also defrauded publishers including News Corp and Fairfax Media.
“Isentia is concerned that Meltwater’s unlawful conduct in relation to its contract with Isentia may be even more extensive than Isentia has been able to identify to date. Evidence was filed indicating that Meltwater has connections to an organisation located in India which appears to be systematically scraping content from Isentia’s services.”
In its statement of claim to the court, Isentia said that in October last year it was sent an email (apparently in error) from an analyst at Meltwater advising a client that TV clips from an Isentia account in the name of Mike Smith had been placed on the Meltwater platform.
Isentia said in the filing to the court that three Isentia accounts had been set up and used to search for clients of both companies, and other third parties, and the information used for financial benefit. It quotes from two emails it says were sent by someone at Meltwater to potential clients, offering Isentia content as part of its services.
Meltwater replied to a legal letter from Isentia telling it to stop, that there was only one Isentia account that had been used by one individual, and that they hadn’t received any payments relating to the account. “Our client wishes to emphasize that the account was opened and operated by an individual (one of about 70 of its Australian operation) and that the operation of the account was not in accordance with our client’s policies,” Meltwater’s lawyers said.
Isentia alleges that after that assurance was given, Meltwater employees continued to access the accounts and used one to search for current and former Isentia clients and other third parties.
Further, Isentia said in the statement that Meltwater had also accessed accounts belonging to Isentia clients, inducing them to breach their contracts by handing over their login details.
Isentia also said at least two emails had been sent by Meltwater consultants making false claims about its services, including about its rates and comparisons to Meltwater.
It says Meltwater has broken Australian Consumer Law and has also broken a contract by continuing to operate after it had said the breaches of contract were isolated to one person within the company.
An interlocutory hearing will be held at the Federal Court in Sydney tomorrow afternoon.
Meltwater said in a statement that it intends to “strenuously defend the matter”:
“Meltwater does not condone or promote activities such as claimed by Isentia. We greatly value our relationship with, and responsibility to, the publishers and our customers. As in all court proceedings, it is inappropriate to litigate the matter by press release and Meltwater will make no further comment at this time.”
Isentia has by far the majority of media monitoring business in Australia, but Meltwater has been putting increasing pressure on it since arriving on the Australian scene from Norway in 2015. Isentia has been facing challenges in increasing copyright costs, as well as the competition from Meltwater, according to Roger Montgomery investment analysis.
NOTE: This story has been updated to include a comment from Meltwater, which was provided to Crikey after deadline.